Movie Review: Hansel and Gretel- Witch HuntersPosted: March 14, 2013
Last year I wrote about the fact that Hollywood is irritatingly still on this revisionist fairy tale kick, citing last year’s Snow White double bill (Mirror, Mirror and Snow White and the Huntsman) but did mention there was one fairy tale inspired movie I was looking forward to, this flick.
Part of the reason I was looking forward to it was because it was centred around a man crush/crush partnership of Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton, who play the eponymous witch killing siblings.
The movie starts with the traditional story of the gingerbread house and pushing the witch into the oven, but with a few added bits. The kids are left in the woods by their father rather than a nasty stepmother (seriously, stepmoms get a bad rep in children’s stories) and Hansel is forced to eat the sweeties rather than just being a greedy douche as is normally the case. Having eliminated the witch the two then travel around Germany whacking witches using some pretty cool gadgets and weapons.
Their job brings them to a town where several kids have been snatched. They arrive just in time to save an innocent girl, Mina (Pihla Viitala) from being drowned and burnt as a witch by the bullying Sheriff Berringer (Peter Stormare), who they clash with instantly and who is annoyed that the mayor has hired them to rid the town of its witch problem.
Hansel and Gretel investigate further and discover that the behaviour of the witches in the area is a little strange and different from what they’ve witnessed before. With 11 kids already gone it appears that the witches are planning something big.
The witches are headed up by the powerful grand witch Muriel (Famke Janssen) who seems to know a lot about the siblings and their past. Unable to save the twelfth child before it’s grabbed and separated from each other, Hansel is aided by Mina and discovers a link to their past. While Gretel is rescued by the witches’ troll henchman and assisted by local lad, and enthusiastic fan Ben (Thomas Mann).
Can they stop the witches’ evil plan? What does their past hide? And is there more to Mina than meets the eye?
This is a very silly movie, and while far from perfect it’s jolly good fun.
I was a little surprised that they made it into a 15 certificate movie, as the people who are really going to love this flick are boys in their early teens, but the higher certificate means that the film is allowed to keep its fleeting nudity, frequent gore and cursing, which it delights in the way a rebellious teenager does. Oh, and there’s a headbutt, which oddly is something the BBFC is very strongly opposed to (Aragorn’s headbutt in one of the Lord of the Rings movies was contested and allowed to stay in because he was headbutting an orc, which is just racist).
Also for the teenage boy audience there’s the sight of Gemma Arterton in tight, low cut clothes and there’s even a rather gratuitous close up of her cleavage. Arterton seems to be enjoying herself however, and she’s quite good as the badass witch killer, handling the fight sequences well and carrying herself with confidence that suggests an ability to handle herself.
She’s equally matched by Renner, who continues his streak of good performances as the more cynical half of the duo. There’s a scoundrel, Han Solo vibe to Hansel, and Renner’s muscular charisma works well for the role, while he also manages to make him an engagingly sweet character through his genuine concern for his sister and his awkwardness around Mina, which feels natural. After all, this is a guy who’s only real contact with women is his sister or nasty witches that are trying to rip his head off, so it feels right that he’s a little out of his element when it comes to an attractive woman who’s interested in him for different reasons.
Both leads work well together and they convince as a brother and sister team. They look good and convince as fighters, even if there is a little bit too much posturing from both, although it felt kind of deliberate as the film’s tongue is quite firmly in its cheek.
The plot is highly predictable, and a few of the plot points could be seen coming a mile away (although Mrs Obvious behind me seemed caught out by them all and after a revelation would make comments like “so she was a witch!” loudly to her husband), but the film has a few nice touches, with the fight sequences being rather enjoyable and there being a kind of smashmouth style, with both heroes being knocked about a fair bit and mainly triumphing through teamwork, superior firepower and toughness.
The witches are pretty well done, including a great scene near the end of the movie where a council is held and witches arrive from around the world, dressed in different national costumes and designed in different styles and types, which makes the big smackdown at the end more interesting.
In terms of gore the film has a fair amount of the red stuff splashed about and there are a few icky touches, but on the whole the gore has a kind of enjoyably OTT vibe
As the movie’s big bad, Famke Janssen is on fine form, playing the role of Muriel with a kind of campy, vampish style and she’s still got a fair amount of sex appeal. She’s clearly having fun and it shows one of Janssen’s strengths, her willingness to ramp it up for fun, goofy flicks (see also Goldeneye and The Faculty).
The rest of the cast doesn’t have much to do, but they all do their jobs rather well, even if Stormare is clearly on autopilot for some of the flick. Probably the pick of the bunch Pihla Viitala as Mina, who’s rather sweet as the love interest and has an innocent allure.
The movie has a good visual style and some of the design work is sensational, and there are nice touches like the fact that Hansel’s gingerbread house eating as a child has made him diabetic being a nice quirk in the tale, and it has the decency to keep itself short at a light, fun 88 minutes.
It’s hardly life changing but it’s quite good fun and sits around the middle of the daft supernatural action movie genre, not quite reaching the heights of The Mummy, but miles ahead of Van Helsing.
Verdict: Enjoyably daft with the leads having fun and doing their jobs well and a few nice touches along the way, but far from a classic and a little too predictable in places. 6/10.
Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.